Mary Pickford

Mary Pickford, an icon of the silent film era, graced the silver screen as a renowned actress, producer, and Academy Award winner. She co-founded two movie companies and embodied excellence in every facet of her life.

Legend has it that the cocktail bearing her name was crafted in her honor at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba in Havana during the early 1920s. The tale intertwines with the backdrop of Mary Pickford working alongside Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin in Cuba, with frequent visits to this storied bar. The drink’s origin, it’s said, can be attributed to either the New Yorker Eddie Woelke or the Englishman Fred Kaufmann, both of whom plied their trade in Havana during those years.

Curiously, historical accuracy doesn’t align with this narrative. Mary Pickford never set foot in Cuba in the 1920s alongside Fairbanks and Chaplin, nor did they collaborate on a film together on this island. Mary did shoot a film in Cuba, but it was in 1911, during the nascent stage of her career and with different co-stars. The Hotel Nacional de Cuba itself didn’t open until 1930.

Nevertheless, the Mary Pickford cocktail was born in Cuba and rose to global popularity, much like the actress herself.

The first documented recipe for this delightful concoction graced the pages of Basil Woon’s book, “When It’s Cocktail Time in Cuba,” published in 1928. Woon, an Englishman, led a fascinating life as a writer, traveler, and adventurer. He was commissioned by the Cuban government to promote Cuba as an ideal destination for foreign travelers during the Prohibition era of the 1920s, a time when Americans fervently sought places where they could enjoy legal libations on their vacations. Given this context, Woon naturally included bars and cocktails in his book, where he noted that the most popular cocktails in Havana, following the Daiquiri, were the El Presidente and the Mary Pickford.

If Mary Pickford herself wasn’t directly involved in the cocktail’s creation, why name it after her? The Mary Pickford cocktail is characterized by its lightness and softness, qualities often associated with the feminine. In an era when Cuba was actively courting American tourists, the name of Hollywood’s most beloved actress would undoubtedly draw attention. Thus, it was likely a clever marketing ploy.

Despite its origins, the cocktail quickly gained popularity and earned its place in bars and recipe books around the world.

Wood’s original recipe featured white rum, pineapple juice, and grenadine. However, Maraschino liqueur soon found its way into the mix, and by the time of the classic “The Savoy Cocktail Book” by Harry Craddock in 1930, the Mary Pickford cocktail was already mentioned in its modern variation.

The IBA Recipe:

-1.5 oz/45 ml of White Rum
-1.5 oz/45 ml of fresh pineapple juice
-0.25oz/7.5 ml of Maraschino liqueur
-bar spoon (5 ml) of Grenadine

Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker over ice and shake. Strain into the chilled cocktail glass and enjoy.

Garnish – cherry.

Cocktail glass

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